His words, Om Shanthi ! Shanthi!! Shanthihi had great peace, but now it’s total silence. He was 83 and he collapsed after suffering from breathlessness. With the demise of Jayendra Saraswathi, the country has lost one of its icons of Sanatana Dharma, and I lost my Guru, guide and path maker. He was a very calm, extraordinarily spiritual and a very humble person. He always lived a valued life by acting as a guiding force to youth like me. He was one of the spiritual leaders who always taught me to deal with life. He has been an expert in the Advaita philosophy propounded by Shankaracharya in the nook and cranny of India. His spiritual personality has never deviated from the tenets of the religion.
Born as Subramaniayam in Irulneeki, a small hamlet near Mannargudi, in Tamil Nadu, he was initiated into sanyasam by his predecessor at the mutt — the late Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi in 1954. Shri Jayendra Saraswathi was 19 years old then. Unlike his predecessor, Shri Jayendra Saraswathi sought to reach out to various sections of society and in the process, is said to have departed from the well-established traditions of the mutt. His tenure witnessed many unbridled moments. In 1987, Jayendra Saraswathi mysteriously disappeared from the mutt. He reportedly left behind his sacred thread and other articles of faith in his living quarters. Jayendra Saraswathi, however, was traced in Karnataka’s Talacauvery three days after he went missing. His chosen successor, Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi, was given charge of the mutt’s daily rituals in Jayendra Saraswati’s absence. Jayendra Saraswathi, till date, hasn’t fully explained the circumstances surrounding his sudden disappearance.
Nearly 40 years after he was chosen as a successor, Jayendra Saraswathi succeeded Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi as the 69th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in 1994. Jayendra Saraswati’s role as the senior-most seer increasingly came under the spotlight in 2004 after he was named as an accused in the murder case of Sankararaman, a temple manager. In 2000, when Jayendra Saraswati intended to visit China, Sankararaman sought the court intervention to stop the senior seer from travelling abroad.
Sankararaman argued that a Hindu would lose his/her religion if he/she crossed the ocean, and as the head of the Kanchi mutt, Jayendra Saraswathi should have known better. Jayendra Saraswathi was forced to abandon his plans.
Sankararaman was allegedly barred from entering the mutt owing to differences between the two. He even wrote open letters to Jayendra Saraswathi, warning him against abusing his position at the mutt and threatened to move to court seeking his removal. The junior seer and his successor, Vijayendra Saraswathi was also named as an accused in the case. Jayendra Saraswathi was however acquitted in the case in 2013 after a prolonged legal fight. In 2004, Sankaraman was attacked by five men at the Debrajasamy Temple and stabbed him to death.
The Kanchi Acharya first found himself in a controversy in August 1987 when he suddenly disappeared from the mutt. Later, explaining his decision to leave the mutt, he told one of the esteemed magazines of India, “It was not sudden, though I did not take leave of anybody. I got the Lord’s message on two things when I meditated at Tirupati in early July. The first was to launch a national movement for spiritual, economic and national awakening of the people and the second was to take a sankalpa (solemn vow). If I had told anybody about my departure, they might have stopped me or persuaded me to put off my departure. That is why I had to go unannounced.” Subsequently, he launched the movement ‘Jana Kalyan Jana Jagaran’ with the motto: service to the people and awakening the masses. He explained that the movement was not communal, claiming that some Christians and Muslims had joined it too.
The Kanchi Acharya gradually became a very influential personality and was close to political leaders, particularly BJP leaders, and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, though she later ordered his arrest in connection with the murder of Sankraraman, the manager of the Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal Temple. His proximity to Jayalalithaa could be explained by the fact that she sought his blessings before releasing the list of her party candidates for the 1996 general election. He was appointed head of a State level committee on protection of temple property in Tamil Nadu. It was widely believed that he played a major role in convincing Jayalalithaa to promulgate an ordinance against ‘forcible religious conversions’. The BJP rule at the Centre offered him a space in national politics and he even tried his hands in finding an amicable solution to Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
Of late, due to his age, he had been suffering from ill health and was hospitalised once recently. This time he made his exit from hospital towards “Devaloka” (God’s own world). May his soul rest in peace!